Is America’s Workforce Disabled or Just Discouraged?

This article originally appeared in RedState. Click here to read the full article.

By Logan Albright

Over the past forty years, the number of Americans receiving disability benefits from the federal government has increased more than six-fold. This is an alarming statistic any way one looks at it, but the implications of it are far from clear. Is the number of Americans with disabilities really increasing so rapidly, a veritable epidemic of enfeeblement? Or perhaps the disabled have always been with us in such numbers, but policy changes have only now enabled them to collect disability insurance. Still another possibility is that, during times of economic downturn when gainful employment can be hard to come by, more people are turning to disability insurance as a way to supplement their income in the absence of a job, exaggerating or outright fabricating the severity of their disability. The truth is most likely a combination of the three, but when one in every sixteen American workers is officially classified  as disabled, there is good cause to worry.

One of the problems with disability insurance is a general fuzziness of definitions and no good way to definitively falsify a claim. If someone claims to have back pain, there is no way to prove that they don’t. Even if the pain is psychological rather than physical in origin, the effect on one’s ability to work is no different. The nature of the disabilities being reported has changed over time, with more difficult to verify conditions, such as back pain and mental illness overtaking more obvious medical problems such as heart disease and strokes. Is this a reflection of a different set of health problems faced by modern Americans, or the exaggeration of less serious conditions in an effort  to collect benefits?